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News | March 19, 2024

Wisconsin Army National Guard participates in 56th Philip A. Connelly Culinary Competition

By Staff Sgt. Amber Peck Hotel Company, 132nd Brigade Support Battalion

The "Hellcats" of Hotel Company, 132nd Brigade Support Battalion, led by 1st Lt. Danielle Lavrenz and 1st Sgt. Roger Marco, competed in the final level of the 56th Philip A. Connelly culinary competition from their Eau Claire armory, March 17, 2024.

After competing and winning at the regional level for the Army National Guard Field Kitchen category in June 2023, the 12 culinary specialists learned in September that they were among just four units advancing to the Department of the Army level.

In anticipation for the event, the section refined their standard operating procedures, conducted monthly rehearsals and inventories of their equipment, focused on reviewing field operations, and conducted food preparation rehearsals.

Sgt. 1st Class Dawn Federman, a senior culinary non-commissioned officer with Hotel Company, expressed her confidence in the team: "From what I’ve been hearing and what I’ve been seeing from my Soldiers, I expect them to do really good. I’m not going to jinx it by predicting the outcome, but they’ve been doing phenomenal, and they’ve been doing everything that is expected out of them. Have we hit some hiccups? Yes, but we’ve learned from them, we’re staying motivated, and they’re having a good time."

With their sights set on the upcoming event, the Soldiers not only honed their skills but also embraced new leadership responsibilities and sought ways to enhance their existing practices.

"This competition has encouraged our food service leaders to step into more challenging leadership roles, ask critical questions on how to improve our best practices, and carry these lessons into our unit training post-Connelly and post-JRTC," said Hotel Company Commander, 1st Lt. Danielle Lavrenz. "These Soldiers have demonstrated both a curiosity to learn and grow, and a confidence in their ability to sustain the force."

This year marked the first year that the Army National Guard Field feeding category implemented standards in line with the active Army’s push toward large-scale combat operations and a more expeditionary force. Things not typically seen in a field environment like stone-lined

pathways and centerpieces were eliminated from the checklist with more of a focus being made on what right looks like, shelf-stable rations, and food taste.

The culinary specialists, also known as 92G, were evaluated by two representatives of National Guard Bureau on 11 categories ranging from site selection and set-up to troop acceptability, all on a score card totaling 1,000 points. The cooks served a lunch consisting of breaded shrimp, pasta with primavera sauce, and salad.

One evaluator, Chief Warrant Officer 4 Tollie Yoder, an Army National Guard senior food advisor, said that his first impression had more to do with people than it did with food.

“We were able to see a lot of great things out here: the actual community, the teamwork from the culinarians, and the leadership support from the company level all the way up to the state leadership. It was absolutely phenomenal; you can see that there’s truly a community and a National Guard family feel.”

The Philip A. Connelly competition was established March 23, 1968, to recognize excellence in Army Food Service and is named for the late Philip A. Connelly, former president of International Food Service Executives Association. It evaluates food service personnel on their management practices, professionalism, creativity and understanding of nutrition, food service execution, and readiness. During Connelly competition events, Soldiers are exposed to the highest level of expertise in the military and civilian industry alike. The end result is a proliferation of outstanding effort as one individual inspires another to seek the satisfaction found in performing a job well.

In the past, Wisconsin Army National Guard participated and won in 2013 and 2014, participated in 2015, and completed 2016 as finalists at the regional level.

The winner and the runner-up for Fiscal Year 24 will be announced in April and will then travel to the Armed Forces Food Service Award Banquet in Chicago, Ill. for recognition in May.